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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Flood Sacks Over 20 Families in Awka, Widow, Hotelier, Others Seek Help

 

By Izunna Okafor, Awka

No fewer than 20 families have been displaced by flood in Umuike and Obinagu villages in Awka South Local Government Area of Anambra State.

This followed the recent state-wide downpour that lasted for hours on Wednesday and Thursday, which similarly wreaked havoc in other parts of the State.

This reporter, Izunna Okafor, who visited some parts of the affected villages in Awka, observed that many buildings and other property were submerged by the flood which also pulled down many walls.

It was also observed that, as at 4 pm on Thursday when this reporter visited some of the scenes, some victims were still evacuating and scooping floodwater from their homes, both manually and mechanically, with one of the victims revealing that they had spent over eighty litre of fuel on pumping machines they have been using to drain the water.

This reporter also observed that many people have evacuated and deserted their homes, while many were seen, still loading their property into the vehicle for departure, as they have been sacked by the flood. Some sympathizers were also seen around, assisting and waiting to bid them farewell.

While the flood, which was about 8-foot high and higher in some buildings, had reduced, the mark was still on the buildings as of the time of the visit, with the helpless-looking victims still lamenting over the extent of damages caused by the flood.

Speaking in an interview, one of the victims, Mrs. Angela Nwafor, lamented that she and her family members had been awake since the midnight after the flood, evacuating their property and scooping out the flood.

According to her, they were badly affected by the flood as they could not recover anything meaningful from the house, despite all their efforts and those of the neighbours who rushed to assist them.

“Even our soup pot, clothes, electronics, upholstery, documents, and, indeed, everything we had at home all got damaged by the flood, to the extent that we remained awake all through the night, evacuating our remaining flood-drenched belongings, till 4 am on Thursday when we started looking for where to sleep.

“And after two hours of restless sleep without our two eyes closed, we woke up again, and since then, we have remained awake till now,” she lamented (in Igbo language).

When asked how the flood came, Mrs. Nwafor, who is a widow and petty trader at Eke Awka Market, recounted how she received a distress call about flood engulfing her house on Wednesday when she was still in the market, and while her children had yet to return from schools.

She added that upon getting home, she discovered that the flood had pushed down the fence of their compound and taken over their rooms and property.

“My dear that was all! And since then, this is what we have been battling without any rest. I’m not even talking about my children attending school in this situation — they didn’t go to school today, neither did I go to the market; and we are not even yet sure of going tomorrow, as our damaged property and the remnants scattered all over people’s houses where they are seeking refuge,” she added (also in Igbo language).

While lamenting over the economic implications of the incident on their livelihood amidst the current economic realities in the country, Mrs. Nwafor, further appealed for the urgent intervention and assistance of the government and good-spirited individuals to help cushion the effects of the disaster on them and find a permanent solution to it, to prevent its reoccurrence.

“Many other victims have relocated to new places while some are still relocating. But, as we don’t have money, we have no option but to remain here and keep managing the situation until it gets better,” Mrs. Nwafor lamented.

Earlier speaking, another victim and MD/CEO, Royal Apartment and Bar, Mr. Raphael Okeke, recounted how flood sacked all the customers in his apartment and bar shortly after the rain started, resulting in the entire place being submerged, to the point that many customers even had to abandon their drinks and flee for their dear lives, even as many electronics and other property of the hotel were submerged and damaged by the flood.

While explaining that the floodwater level surpassed the window level of the downstairs of the hotel and filled up the the rooms therein, despite the tall height of the windows; the victim also recounted how they started at about 2 am on Thursday to evacuate the water using machine, but which was yet to finish as at 3.pm when they switched it off after expending huge amount on it.

When asked the frequency of the flooding in the area, Mr. Okeke (popularly known as Ralph Awka), who acknowledged that the incident had been recurring from time to time during the rainy season, said it had also occurred twice since this year’s rainy season arrived. He, however, confessed that they had never had it this massive, destructive and devastating before.

Concerning the perceived cause of the disaster, Mr. Okeke attributed same to inadequate drainage system in the area.

According to him, the entire Nzekwe Street, off the Obinagu Road, has no single gutter on any side of the road, while the entire Obinagu Road has just one gutter, which is even narrow and narrow, partially nonfunctional and generally inadequate to contain all the floodwater traversing the area. This, he said, made the flood to overflow directionlessly, take over the streets and overflow into people’s homes and shops, even to the point of pulling down fences to gain access. He further added that the area is waterlogged.

Mr. Ralph further revealed that they had written numerous letters and made several efforts to get the attention and intervention of the government in the area, for over ten years now, without any positive response, as the government officials, including the Constituency’s representatives in the legislature, would always come and take pictures of them and the area whenever the flood occurs in the area, after which they would leave, with no positive action.

This, he said, would remain ignored and unaddressed, till the following year when the flood reoccurs, and they would still come and do the same thing, or may not even show up at all, leaving them to their fate.

“Please, we need practical action this time around. Let Governor Chukwuma Charles Soludo come to our help and do something about this.

“You can see for yourself what we are suffering here, the extent of the damages and other effects. Since morning, I have not sold a single bottle of beer. These two people sitting down there are my workers, attending to nobody, just resting for the stress they have passed through since yesterday, especially while transferring some of the things downstairs to the upstairs. So, we are totally helpless and need the urgent attention and practical intervention of the government now, more than ever,” Mr. Okeke appealed.

He also reiterated the urgent need to find a permanent solution to the recurrent issue by constructing deeper and wider gutters and drainage channels along both sides of the roads and other necessary places in the area, for adequate control of the flooding that has annually rendered people homeless and helpless in the area.

On his own part, a sexagenarian, who was sacked from his home by the flood, Mr. Emmanuel Chukwuma lamented that he and his family had been restless since the incident happened, forcing them to seek alternative accommodation elsewhere.

Mr. Chukwuma, who was seen with the 4th batch of his property loaded in a truck, said he and his family were relocating with the property to their new apartment, adding that over 80% of other tenants living in the same building with them have been sacked by the flood.

While reiterating that the area is waterlogged, he also joined in the appeal for urgent intervention of the government, calling on Governor Soludo to remember them “and extend the transformative works he is doing in Awka and other parts of Anambra to the area.”

He recounted how past administrations and stakeholders did not solve their problem, despite the repeated appeal they have made to that effect, even as he expressed optimism that the Soludo Administration, which he described as the Solution Government, would intervene and bring a permanent solution to the plight of the people living in the area.

When contacted by this reporter, the Anambra State Commissioner for Environment, Engr. Felix Odimegwu, described the incident as very unfortunate, gave an overview of flooding menace in Anambra State and government’s efforts to address the issue, even as he assured to visit the area for an on-the-spot assessment of the situation and further actions.

While attesting that there are drainage channel-related challenges in the area, the Commissioner, who also explored the state’s proneness to flood menace, further said it was part of the reasons the Ministry and other agencies of the government started early to disseminate flood warnings and predictions, and issue cautions against negligence, man-made factors, and other human acts capable of aggravating the situation and its effects.

This, he said, was one of the issues addressed during the recent official flag-off of the 2024 Flood Sensitization and Awareness Campaign in the State, adding that the state government had earlier begun desilting and calling for the desilting of blocked drainages across the state. According to him, this exercise was also extended to the Obinagu area and its environs, where the desilting of the blocked drainages had begun already and is still ongoing from behind the Udoka Housing Estate progressing towards the flooded area before the flooding occurred.

The Commissioner, while underscoring the need for and highlighting the efforts to constructing deeper and wider gutters to effectively manage floodwaters and prevent future disasters, also frowned at the actions of some people in the area who worsen the effects through unapproved constructions and similar illegalities.

According to him, these were part of the reason the Soludo Administration is working towards building a new, well-planned Awka, known as Awka 2.0 —a vision, he said, does not only aims to better transform the capital city, but also address the infrastructural deficiencies of the current state capital.

Engr. Odimegwu further sympathized with the flood victims and acknowledged the severity of their situation, reassuring them of government’s commitment to alleviating their plight. He appealed to the community and the residents to cooperate with the government’s efforts and participate in environmental sustainability initiatives, to ensure that such menace and its effect are drastically minimized in the future.

This reporter, Izunna Okafor, gathered that over Awka, the capital city of Anambra State and other parts of the state have been witnessing daily rainfall consistently for about four days now and still counting, with many different effects on different places.

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